I have been a celebrant for six years and it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life, but it’s also been fraught with opportunities to look like a total ditz.
Never work with children
I love it when children attend weddings as it stops the occasion from being overly formal, something that irks me in the extreme. At a wedding I conducted recently, the kids had been given Matchbox cars to keep them quiet during the ceremony. It worked a treat as they played at my feet, until the three year old ring bearer decided to zoom a car up my leg, complete with enthusiastic ‘brum brum’ noises. Just as I was introducing the bride and groom as husband and wife, the offending miniature car made it’s way from my calf to my upper thigh! Acutely aware of the hundred or so guests in front of me, and the incredible significance of this very moment, I masked my ‘this isn’t happening’ look with a smile and kept on. Thankfully, one of the bridesmaids swooped in and grabbed the offending child, and the missile of embarrassment (in the form of a miniature Volkswagen beetle) dropped onto the rustic timber floor with a thud…along with my pride.
Like a virgin
Then there was the time that the bride danced down the aisle to Madonna’s 'Like a Virgin' in a park at Palm Beach. In this pretty and serene place dotted with picnickers speaking in hushed tones, drinking Chablis and eating kale and halloumi salads, we blasted the song full-tilt. If looks could kill, I would have died fifty times over that day. Let’s just say that this daring musical gesture was not exactly well-received by onlookers, but it had great significance for the bride. You see, she had met the groom on an internet dating site, which, for the most part, she likened to finding her way through a wasteland. Because of this, the lyrics ‘I made it through the wilderness – somehow I made it through’ had deeply resonated with her… the chorus not so much.
Mishaps with chairs
On a sparkling summer’s day I arrived at a beautiful lookout to conduct a ceremony, only to find the chairs all facing the WRONG WAY. Yes, for some bizarre reason, the groom had directed the supplier to face the chairs towards a nondescript grassy hill rather than the glittering harbour. As I looked from the groom to the chairs and back again, I was forced to delicately ask if this was actually the plan? In a nervous muddle he insisted that the bride had wanted the chairs this way… and I was like, okaaaaay. Seriously, as a celebrant, you can’t upset apple carts, or even slightly distress them for that matter – but what on earth makes an apple cart so sensitive in the first place? Anyway, weird story short, the guests start arriving and looking bewildered and I pretend I’m very interested in my pen. You see, when something is wrong at a wedding, it is presumed to be the celebrant’s fault – that’s just how it works. Finally, the groom clocked the guests’ confusion and the colour drained from his face, and he realized he had made a bit of a balls up. Well, I have never moved so fast as I repositioned fifty chairs in ten seconds flat – a ninja in florals!
The wrong call
Then there was the time that I arrived to conduct a ceremony on a headland at the start of an electrical storm. To make matters worse, the wedding planner had gone all-out in the decoration department with an excessive display of flowers, tropical fruit and driftwood. Put simply, it was paradise on steroids. I looked out at the swirling sea, with bolts of lightning illuminating the sky, and claps of thunder so loud they made me jump. Then I looked at the gathering and sighed, although mostly mobile types, there was also an elderly gentleman with a stick, an ancient aunt with a walker, and a heavily pregnant woman - if push came to shove they’d never get out alive! With “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons playing in my head, and the sky turning a scary shade of green, I realized I had to do something. I headed to the wedding planner and broke the news tentatively: we might have to move. With steam coming out of her ears she demanded I take in her handiwork, and I demanded she take in the lightning: it was a safety issue. Thankfully she saw reason and started collecting pineapples. I spoke to the bride in the Kombi with no aiconditioning, and she didn’t care a jot. She was so delirious with the heat she just wanted to put on some shorts.
So we moved… and it was a mistake.
As soon as we entered the venue, the sun came out, the storm evaporated, and I internalized a nervous breakdown. I felt terrible because I had pushed for the move, but then again, if the storm had worsened, the gathering would have been in danger. On the upside, rather than having to dial triple zero due to the electrocution of a wedding guest, I just had to deal with an irate wedding planner and her collection of displaced pineapples. Luckily the bride and groom were so in love, they could have gotten married on the moon and it would have made no difference. So the ceremony went ahead inside, with guests tripping on hastily-placed fruit, and the sun shining outside with mocking intensity.
The worry of it all
If you like your sleep, don’t become a celebrant. When the rest of the world is getting their delicious eight hours, I have vocational insomnia and worry about the weather, getting sick, and having a car crash on the way to a ceremony. I know it’s irrational to fret about things that you have no control over, but I don’t want to let people down. I am now sentenced to a life that involves multiple weather apps, buckets of hand sanitiser and driving like such a nana I might start wearing a hat.
But I wouldn’t have things any other way. For the first time in my life I can say “I love what I do” and actually mean it. Every aspect of being a celebrant suits me to a tee, from being meticulous with legal paperwork, to meeting couples and guiding them through, to officiating on the day. It’s the best…pineapples or no pineapples!